The Tressel Lesson

During its years of struggle against Francis Lawrence and the Giaconia-Collins-O'Hara Board of Governors, RU1000 pointed out many times that Ohio State University (OSU) and its football coach "Jim" Tressel were a perfect example of how commercialized Div IA athletics undermine and ultimately destroy universities as institutions of higher learning.

Our recommendations for OSU back then were (1) to fire Jim Tressel, (2) to abolish its Div IA football franchise, (3) to do away with "athletic scholarships" in all sports, and (4) to drastically raise admissions standards. Doing so, we suggested, would do much to get rid of OSU's reputation as an academically deplorable football factory and move it toward becoming a real university.

In Confessions of a Spoilsport, his memoir of the Rutgers 1000 campaign, Professor Dowling described a signal episode in the career of "Jim" Tressel, the brief rise and fall of a recruit named Maurice Clarett:

 From Confessions of a Spoilsport:

"The separate reality created for athletes by Div IA sports was even more on display in the case of Ohio State football player Maurice Clarett, who as a freshman carried OSU to a national championship.

On campus, driving a Lexus SC 430, Clarett moved among ordinary mortals as a god, with every desire -- money, girls, expensive clothes, breathless adulation from students and adults alike -- granted as soon as it was wished.

His eligibility, Clarett later reported, had been bestowed by bogus grades and credit for nonexistent courses. Looking up from the field to the hundred thousand adoring spectators in the OSU stands, or at the state legislators, wealthy boosters, and high-level university administrators gazing raptly down from the corporate skyboxes on high, Clarett would have been delusional not to believe that this multitudinous, throbbing, televised spectacle -- rather than some ephemeral institution of higher learning -- was the real Ohio State.

'The only thing that matters at Ohio State,' Clarett said, 'is football.' Yet a bitter quarrel with Coach Jim Tressel would soon enough teach Clarett to look back on his football celebrity as a vanished fairy tale.

'Ohio State created me,' he would tell an ESPN reporter, almost in wonderment at the total change. Then Ohio State unmade him. In the aftermath Clarett would undergo something like a complete psychological disintegration."

We've just learned that OSU has at last taken our first recommendation. We will wait with interest to see if, having belatedly come to its senses, it will now proceed wth numbers (2), (3), and (4). We wish them the best of luck.